By Supriya Madangarli
The Dirty Picture, a film loosely based on Silk Smitha’s life and death is all sound and no fury.
To describe The Dirty Picture as a biopic of the late Silk Smitha would be to stretch the word over its finite limits and then some. One could call it a caricature for all that it resembles the late actor’s life and career.
Incidents which subscribe to the legend of Silk Smitha have been used to create the story of Reshma (aka Silk) enacted by Vidya Balan, whose much touted ‘bold’ performance meant that dialogues were supposedly salacious and the costumes were apparently audacious.
You know when Silk is going to say something ‘naughty’ or what the filmmakers want to the audience to perceive as such for the moment is heavily underlined by a ‘saucy’ musical score which at times included orgasmic sigh and a wink.
What comes across is that Reshma aka Silk sees herself (as do the rest of the characters in the film) as a body which would help the film to sell tickets. When the film begins she is determinedly unapologetic about it. In the first scenes leading to the creation of the legend ‘Silk’, Reshma is rejected by the casting person, she is told that she neither looks like a wife or a sweetheart and so she better forgot about acting roles. She proceeds to drown her sorrows watching her favourite superstar. The guy sitting next to her offers her twenty rupees for a bit of a fun. The next day she walks onto the set and confronts the person who had rejected her. There must be something in me, which made that man give me twenty rupees she says. Reshma holds on to this as she moves to success.
However, the bid to establish the character as a pure ‘soul’, a virgin at heart, has the script make her truly in love with the superstar she had propositioned to ensure her survival.
Reshma is naively ignorant about the dirt thrown at her by tabloids content with keeping a scrapbook of clippings that has ‘good’ pictures of her. When the fantasy like state she has built for herself is destroyed, there are the platitudes of empowering dialogues such as her speech after she wins an award – ‘I am used as body parts to sell your film, yet you call me vulgar’. There is a hint of power play, the economics of sex in films, the incestuous media relationships but the film barely skims the surface, satisfied with soap opera dialogues and the accompanied orchestrated score.
The rationale of Reshma’s suicide is weak. Facing financial ruin and on the verge losing her home and career, she agrees to work for a small time producer who turns out to be a porn filmmaker. She refuses to do the scene but is drugged to be complaisant but the arrival of the police saves her in the nick of time. The woman in the beginning of the film, who thought that she is worth something when she was offered twenty rupees for sex, kills herself when it looks like she would have to do porn for survival.
As for the other characters, you have a bitter diatribe spouting narrator, Abraham (Emraan Hashmi) a, mock-intellectual for whom Silk (and not the actual people in power) personifies all that is rotten and dirty in commercial cinema, who plays a role in the destruction of Silk, and yet inexplicably falls in love with her by the time film reaches its end. Then there is the paper-thin character of superstar Suryakant (Naseeruddin Shah) who plods through the film hamming away to glory playing godfather with the destinies of his heroines.
The only emotion the film stirs in you is when you hear the song Ooh la la tu hai meri fantasy blasting out of megaphone at the fancy dress competition in the primary school next to your residence. A feeling of sheer incomprehension.
Director: Milan Luthria
Players: Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, Emraan Hashmi, Tusshar Kapoor, Anju Mahendru